Recruitment Fail For Both Parties In The Senate

You know it's rough when the latest attempt to claim a political "Year of the Woman" in the US Senate starts by holding up the attempts of two women to not lose their seats.

2014 is shaping up as a bad year for electing women to the Senate — there could easily be a net loss — and the primary reason is that it's likely to be a good year for the GOP.

But that's not the whole story, at all. In fact, neither party is looking very woman-friendly in this year's Senate races.

Remember, the key to look at is what I call the replacement rate: the percentage of new incoming members who are women. It looks to me like we'll get between eight and 12 new Senators out of this November's elections. At least one will be a woman. Opportunities beyond that one are iffy.

By my count, 17 of this year's 36 Senate races have safe incumbents — 16 men and one woman (Susan Collins of Maine). Of those, 11 are held by Republicans: AL, ID, KS, ME, MS, OK, SC (Graham), SC (Scott), TN, TX, and WY. For what it's worth, Democrats seem likely to nominate women in at most three of those hopeless causes, in Maine and possibly Oklahoma and the SC special election. The six safe Democrats are DE, IL, MA, NJ, NM, and RI; not a single Republican woman is even running in those races.

There is one other incumbent whose party is safe, but not himself — in Hawaii, where Colleen Hanabusa is running in the Democratic primary against acting Senator Brian Schatz. Hanabusa is the best chance for a new Democratic woman in the Senate. (Many of the other incumbents have primary challengers, but no likely upsets and no other significant women involved.)

Two open seats also look safe for one party; in both cases, for the Republican nominee. They are Nebraska, and the Oklahoma special election, and no Republican women are running in either.

There are five other open seats, that will pick someone new for the Senate: GA, IA, MI, SD, and WV. West Virginia is the one sure new woman I referenced above; the general election should pit Democrat Natalie Tenant and Republican Shelly Moore Capito. In Georgia, Michelle Nunn is the likely Democratic nominee, and Karen Handel might win the Republican nomination, but most likely that seat will go to one of the Republican congressmen running. Joni Ernst looks 50/50 to win Iowa's GOP primary, and a slight underdog against Bruce Braley in the general. Terri Lynn Land is the likely Republican nominee in Michigan, but that's a tough one for a Republican to win. Republican Annette Bosworth is a long-shot in the Montana aprimary.

That leaves 11 races where an incumbent might be replaced. One, Kentucky, is held by a Republican — namely Mitch McConnell. His likely Democratic challenger will be Alison Lundergan Grimes; I find it very unlikely that she'll win, but polls show it close so far.

The other 10 are held by potentially vulnerable Democrats. In six of those 10 — AK, AR, CO, LA, MT, and VA — no Republicans are running. Karen Testerman in New Hampshire and Heather Grant in North Carolina are unlikely to be their party nominees. Julianne Ortman in Minnesota and Monica Wehby in Oregon have good shots at the nominations, but both are really unlikely to win in those blue states.

Note that three of those 10 potentially vulnerable incumbent Democrats are women — Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan in North Carolina — and that if they lose, they are all likely to be replaced by men.

Right now, 20 of 100 US Senators are women — 16 of 55 Democrats (29%), and 4 of 45 Republicans (9%). Only four of the 20 are up for re-election, but as mentioned, three of them could easily lost.

Democrats will be lucky to end up with the same number of women, and will probably drop one or two; their percentage should stay around the same, since their total number will drop. Republicans should end up adding Caputo to get to five, and maybe find one or two more from Ernst, Land, or Wehby. Maybe.  

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